Author Interview: Anya Lipska

Friday 19 June 2015
I am having an unofficial Anya Lipska week on the blog at the moment with reviews for all three of her Kiszka and Kershaw books having been posted on the blog recently. I thought then it would be nice to round things off with a short Q&A with the author herself, who happily obliged! If you've missed the reviews you can see them here, otherwise I hope you enjoy reading the Q&A.

Anya's latest novel is A Devil Under the Skin and my review can be found here. The book itself is out now!

A Devil Under the Skin is a little different to your previous books two books. Can I assume you are an author that will continue to mix things up with each book that you write? 

I hope so. It’s important to keep the plots and content fresh – and constantly to challenge myself – but I’m also aware that readers view returning characters almost as old friends (I’m the same, when re-encountering iconic characters like Ian Rankin’s Rebus), so it’s crucial to keep them true to their essentials, whatever curveball fate might throw at them.

Janusz Kiszka and Natalie Kershaw are two brilliant characters, and their relationship continues to intrigue. Do you know everything about these characters and how they will develop over the series or do things about them change as you write? 

Thanks! Before I started writing, I used to treat the idea that ‘the characters have a life of their own’ as a bit of writerly whimsy, frankly, but there is a nugget of truth in it. You have to be the boss of them, of course, but the more layered and therefore more nuanced your characters become, the wider the fictional opportunities they offer. I don’t know precisely where Janusz and Natalie will go, but I do know that they must continue to develop – both in their own skins and in their relationship with each other…

And a similar question in terms of story: do you plot the whole thing out or just start writing with an idea of how things will ultimately end? 

Plotwise, I sit more towards the ‘plan it out’ end of the spectrum. The idea of not knowing how my novel is going to end would scare the crap out of me. So I start with a route map that has a few critical landmarks and a probable destination – the basic plot architecture if you like. That gives me a secure foundation, from which I can happily depart from when twists and turns, plot layers, unexpected scenes etc occur to me.

Is there a particular character you have the most fun writing about? I do have a soft spot for Oskar, and think you achieve the perfect balance between humour and seriousness which is hard to do in crime fiction! 

#Busted. I have a lot of fun writing Oskar – and Streaky, the other returning character who offers a comic counterpoint to the books’ darker side. I think it is one of life’s great consolations that even amid the grimmest of experiences, human beings are still able to have a laugh.

You clearly do some detailed research before writing your stories, what is one of the most interesting/fascinating things you discovered when doing your research for this series? 

Yes, I do a shedload of research – probably more than is strictly necessary. (As one of my crime-writing chums says, with some exasperation ‘Why don’t you just make it up?!’) But the process turns up so many rich ideas that would never otherwise have occurred to me, that I rarely consider it time wasted. While researching the latest book A Devil Under the Skin, I discovered that it was three Polish mathematicians who first broke the Enigma code used by the German air force in the Thirties, thus laying the groundwork for Turing’s solution of the naval version during the war. That gem gave birth to one of my favourite new characters, an ancient roué called Stefan who I love so much that he might one day demand his own series…

What does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have your own writing 'space' or are you an author that writes anywhere and everywhere? 

My study desk and the dining table are my writing world. When I am driven near-insane by the prison of those four walls, I sometimes escape to a coffee shop, but have yet to find one that’s quiet enough for long enough. Very occasionally, when I can afford it, I rent a seaside flat – my dream spot is Southwold on the Suffolk coast. I find my word count doubles whenever I’m there – away from the distraction of household chores, what to cook for dinner, Twitter, the emails from my ‘day job’…

I would love to keep reading about Janusz Kiszka and Natalie Kershaw for a long time yet, can you reveal anything about their future and whether we will be seeing a book four? 

There will definitely be a fourth book in the series. As long as people want to read about Janusz, Natalie, Oskar and chums, I’ll keep writing adventures for them. As to the subject matter – I shall have to see where my research takes me…

Thanks to Anya for taking the time to answer my questions! 

About Anya Lipska

Anya is a Brit whose interest in all things Polish stems from her marriage a Pole, who came to the UK during the Communist era. Her day job is producing documentaries on subjects as diverse as the sex lives of Neanderthals, the hunt for Cleopatra's tomb, and a History of Italian Gardens with Monty Don.

Her website is and she can also be found on Twitter @anyalipska.

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